Tonight and tomorrow night is Simchas Torah! In synagogues all around town there will be intense singing and dancing. Fathers will carry their children on their shoulders and neighbors will be spinning young kids in circles making them laugh with glee. The laughter and joy are so amazing. It’s a true outburst of joy!
When I was young, I loved Simchas Torah – to be a small child looking up at all the men around me; to throw candies and sing; to have hours in shul with all the boundaries torn down and to feel the happiness of the grown ups around me.
Then I got older. The men’s side wasn’t for me anymore. I stood in the women’s section watching the dancing, noting the joy, but feeling restless.
I wanted to dance, I didn’t just want to observe. Most of my friends were content to watch the boys. Particularly the ones that came back from Yeshiva. They had a fervor and youthful energy that none of the men could match. My friends would decide which guy was cute and would stare for hours while I tapped my toes and walked in and out of shul trying to create some kind of action.
Having kids, thank G-d, my participation has increased. I watch them getting a chance to hold the Torah and be swallowed up by the crowd, accepted as a valued member of the community at any age. The shul is still a wonderful , pulsing place of music. But I sometimes feel restless again.I find it hard to invite my friends to a Simchas Torah celebration with me. particularly my single, female friends. Will they feel a part of it?
As someone who loves to dance, it’s hard for me to just watch.
In my shul there is a story. It goes like this. One year the women, many of whom are artistic, expressive people, decided to go to another part of the building to dance. They did, and had a wonderful time. when they left, the men’s dancing was going on, and it fell completely flat. The whole thing lost it’s luster.
It turns out that the women aren’t just passive bystanders but active receivers of the experience, much like a performer needs an audience.
This is the way of Torah life. We work together.
It’s a much longer discussion and there’s so little time left before the holiday. I’ll tell you where I am with it now. I’m humbled.
It’s not about the men and it’s not about the women and it’s not about my children and it’s not about the candy. It’s the sum total of all that’s there that creates the holiness. The love for the Torah, the way we’re so intimate with it that we hug it and parade it around. The sweat and love of the crowd that’s dancing. The great gift that we have direction and meaning in life. The sacrifice of those that keep to their study schedules no matter what. And even my own sacrifice as I surrender what I want, to a loving G-d who knows what’s best for me and protects my holy essence with His commandments.